Where will I find authentic and reliable information about Tasmania’s aborigines prior to 1803?

This question has been asked because I am not concerned with researching European settlement or its impact on Tasmania’s indigenous population.

It seems that three categories of information sources might be used for my study:

  1. the written/printed word,
  2. material anthropology, and
  3. oral histories. Such histories might exist in association with the continuance of authentic movements such as dance and sound making.

As stated in an earlier post, the original settlers in Van Diemen’s Land, the descendants of non-indigenous peoples, and other non-indigenous people have left historical written/printed documentation. In addition, exploring visitors to this island before European settlement made written records. Each of these writers will have their own perspective, and so my challenge will be to remember what they write is not necessarily a fact. This means I will need supporting and corroborating evidence of other kinds; material artefacts and/or oral histories.  I do not expect to find any early 19th century documentation written by Tasmanian aborigines – but I would be very excited to read such records if I should find them.

James Joyce, in his essay “Fantasy Island” (Manne, 2003, Whitewash Black Inc. Agenda, Melbourne) refuted the evidence of Keith Windshuttle’s book (2002, Fabrication of Aboriginal History: Volume One, Van Diemen’s Land 1803-1847 Macleay Press, Sydney) when he declared ‘Windshuttle can impose his contemporary conclusions on Van Diemen’s Land history only by limiting the selection of sources …’.  Joyce’s position reminds me to stay focused and to explore broadly.

At the moment, I have started working through a mountain of freely available reference material seeking clues as to what I might need to follow up with careful research.  As yet, I have found very little that pertains to the Derwent River. These are early days during which I will come to an understanding of the limitations and challenges of my project.

2 thoughts on “Where will I find authentic and reliable information about Tasmania’s aborigines prior to 1803?

  1. DeeScribes

    Can you make use of any local archives or historical resources at local museums? Does the University have anything available? Does research on the indigenous population on the mainland have any value to what you are pursuing? I’m sure you will find many things of interest, but whether or not they are useful to your question may take some further searching.

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    1. Tasmanian traveller Post author

      Thanks for this comment. Yes our museums do have artefacts, and UTAS certainly has a variety of resources. I suspect there may be ‘evidence’ in mainland and overseas museums for me to find as well. Once I have laboured through every reference that I can locate outside these institutions, then I will hope to immerse myself in their collections – hoping to find Derwent River connected history. I can see this will be my annual winter task for a few years and I am very much looking forward to it. Particularly because after this very cold winter (I know it doesn’t come near to what you have) I have decided to housesit around Australia and overseas every winter in a warmer place. So I will align my searches with this future mobility.

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